The Woodland Regional Hawks Football team has found themselves in the class S state championship for the third time in school history. The Hawks have had an extraordinary season winning 11 games and losing only 2 throughout the season. This season has been one of the Hawks best seasons besides their 2004 and 2005 seasons when they won back-to-back state championships and only losing one game between the two seasons. Now the Hawks return to their former glory as they have the opportunity to bring another state championship title to the woods. And this team is perfectly capable of doing just that.
Leading the team at the quarterback position is senior, Tanner Kingsley. Kingsley is a three year starter for the Hawks and has been putting up excellent numbers this season. Coming into the state championship Kingsley has 3473 total passing yards as well as 45 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. In his fourteen games played thus far he has 377 attempts and 236 completions bringing him to a .626 completion percentage. With that he averages 15 yards a pass and 248.1 passing yards a game. It would be an understatement to say Kingsley is a good quarterback, he is a phenomenal quarterback and one of the best quarterbacks Woodland has seen. While Kingsley certainly measures up, he still has yet to prove his true ability as the true test of the Ansonia Chargers will be the separating fact between legendary status and the Woodland quarterback that could have been. While Kingsley seems like he could do it on his own that is certainly not the case.
With Kingsley in the backfield is sophomore Sean McAllen. McAllen has been the predominate running back as leads the team with 165 carries and 1520 total rushing yards. McAllen also leads the rushing corps with 16 touchdowns. McAllen, who is only a sophomore, is a small, yet quick running back who has been juking and dodging oncoming defenders throughout the season. When Kingsley is not launching game-winning bombs down the field he is handing the ball off to McAllen who makes up for his petit size with his jaw-dropping speed, agility, and ability to break tackles left and right. Also helping in the backfield is sophomore Coby Vaccarelli who has racked up 45 carries as well as 286 yards. He also follows McAllen in touchdowns with four of his own. After McAllen suffered a minor injury late in the season Vaccarelli has been taking over the running back position and doing a fine job at that.
On the other end of the offensive spectrum are the Woodland wide receivers. Passing has been the tendency of Kingsley as the Woodland offensive is often found in the shotgun formation as well as a spread offense. Leading the team with yards, and the apparent favorite receiver of Kingsley is junior Mike Kenney. Kenney has 55 receptions for 995 total receiving yards. He leads the team with 15 receiving touchdowns, with his longest reception being 97 yards. Kenney was also the receiver on the miracle 4 and 25 pass from Kingsley that sealed the Hawks 32-27 victory against the Derby Red Raiders. Right behind Kenney is senior receiver Taylor Tucciarone. Tucciarone has racked up 51 receptions, 763 yards, and 15 touchdowns so far this season. Throughout the season it has become apparent that Kingsley favors the long ball, and that the Woodland offense is based off medium to long passes mixed with short and tough runs. Woodland likes to throw on first down but is not scared to hand the ball off to convert. They have shown that they are a very balanced offensive team and it has proven to work as the Hawks record of 11-2 obviously shows that. While they are well balanced on offense this Woodland team seems to be balanced as a whole as well.
Woodlands balance stretches beyond their offense as their defense compliments the offense and makes Woodland a very well balanced and successful team. So far this year senior Levi Fancher leads the team with 10.5 sacks, and is followed by junior Chris McDonold who has 6.5 sacks on the year. The team has a combined 41.5 sacks as several other players get in the mix as well, those players being junior Will Flormann, and senior Tucciarone to name a few. The Woodland defense has also accumulated 13 interceptions to aid the Hawks in their pursuit to the championship match. Woodland looks great on paper and they look even better when the lights go on and they hit the field every Friday night. Sparks do certainly fly when the Hawks hit the gridiron in the valley.
The Hawks got off to a phenomenal start as their first two games where located in the woods as they defeated Branford 44-19, and then Crosby 40-6. They then traveled to Kennedy and beat the Eagles 34-27, a tough game that Woodland counted as their third straight win.
The next week they battled their heated rival the Naugatuck Greyhounds at Woodland for the first ever George Pinho trophy. The trophy was awarded to the winner of the Woodland vs. Naugatuck game as the beginning of a new tradition in the valley was born on that night when the Hawks defeated the Greyhounds by the slim margin of 25-22. While the margin was small the win was huge. In honor of George Pinho the Hawks took the first George Pinho trophy ever. In memory of George Pinho, a native of Naugatuck, and a football coach for Woodland he was the father of Jack Pinho, a senior on the team. His other son Jake Pinho played for the Hawks when he attended Woodland Regional a few years prior. The trophy was created and dedicated to George due to his tragic passing last January. The moment that the Hawks shared that night was one of the most special moments in Woodland history as it was apparent that the hard work and dedication the Hawks had been putting in were for their beloved coach and father George Pinho.
The success of the Hawks would continue as they would win their next three games against opponents like Sacred Heart, St. Paul, and Pomperaug. At the undefeated record of 7-0 the Hawks played Holy Cross on November 1, which would be their first loss of the season. The Hawks suffered a tough loss of 37-18 as their perfect season was shattered by the crusaders…but the hopes of the Hawks were not. They put that loss behind them and continued steam rolling opponents. The next week they crushed Torrington 46-14, and then Derby 32-27 the next. With the win against Derby the Hawks had captured the Copper Division for the second year in a row and were awarded one home state playoff game.
With the Copper now under their belt they had earned the chance to play Ansonia for the 2013 NVL Championship. Back at municipal stadium for the second time this season the Hawks could not summon the charisma they had had all year and suffered their second loss of the year. Ansonia, on the other hand remained undefeated, but they had not seen the last of the Woodland Hawks. For the last game of the regular season the Hawks were back at it again as they whipped Seymour 22-19. With that victory over the Wildcats they were prepped and ready to enter the state playoffs. The win against Derby paid off as their first playoff game would be at Woodland, an environment that the Hawks thrived in and could not be beaten in. This proved true as Woodland demolished the Morgan Huskies 47-21, to advance to the semi-final round of the playoffs. Now playing a much better team than Morgan, the Hawks still found a way to beat the Bloomfield War Hawks 30-26 at Wolcott to advance to the championship round for the third time in school history.
Now in an epic re-match of the NVL championship the Hawks have another chance to take a hack at the Chargers and win the state championship, ruin a perfect season for Ansonia, and raise a banner back at the woods. The key to taking the championship will be the stopping of Ansonia running back Arkeel Newsome; while this is not a surprise to anyone the Hawks will find it paramount to stop Newsome in order to defeat the Chargers once and for all. Newsome this year however has been an unstoppable force of nature. He has 3350 total rushing yards with 48 rushing touchdowns not to mention the 9 receiving touchdowns he has also racked up during the season. It seems this year that the Hawks have been able to defeat every opponent put in their way besides the Ansonia Chargers. Due to the fact that the chargers are one of the Hawks two loses this year, it will be interesting to see what adjustments Woodland will make ( most notably their defense) in order to put the Chargers down once and for all.
Now all the Hawks can do is do what they have been doing all year; fighting and battling to the bitter end, giving it all they have got and leaving it all out on the field. The Championship match will take place at Central Connecticut State University at Arute field, on Friday night at the primetime of 7:05 in the evening.